Stage set for Sweet 16 trip for Iowa?
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) The Iowa Hawkeyes have never had a better chance to reach the Sweet 16 under coach Lisa Bluder than they do this weekend.
Despite reaching the NCAA Tournament 12 times in 15 seasons under Bluder, Iowa has never broken through with a trip to the regional semifinals. That could all end by Sunday, though.
Iowa (24-7) is seeded third and will serve as the host school - in a gym it hasn't lost in all season - for the opening two rounds of the Oklahoma City Region.
The Hawkeyes open tournament play Friday when they face American (24-8). Miami (19-12) and Washington (23-9) will open the doubleheader.
''This year is special for us for a number of reasons. One is, we earned the right to play at home,'' Bluder said.
Here are some things to consider as Iowa prepares to host the NCAA tournament for the 14th time:
LOGICAL THINKING: Iowa earned its best seed in 19 years behind senior Samantha Logic, one of the nation's best point guards. Logic, a unanimous first-team All-Big Ten pick, is averaging 13.5 points, 8 assists and 6.8 rebounds per game. Logic has a lot of weapons to work with as guards Ally Disterhoff (team high 15.1 points per game) and Melissa Dixon (15 ppg., 45 percent on 3s) team with center Bethany Doolittle (13.9 ppg., 6.9 rpg.) to give Iowa one of the Big Ten's most balanced attacks.
AMERICAN WOMEN: This is all new to the Eagles, who earned their first NCAA Tournament bid by beating Lehigh 66-50 in the Patriot League title game. American also set a school record with 24 wins. The Eagles have a pair of quality post players in forwards Michelle Holmes and Arron Zimmerman. But it's guard Jen Dumiak who runs the offense. Dumiak is averaging 16.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game.
HUSKY HELLO: Washington hasn't been to the NCAA Tournament in eight years. But the Huskies have already won their most games since 1994-95, and sophomore Kelsey Plum has led the way. Plum opened the season with 45 points against Oklahoma and hasn't stopped since. Plum's 22.8 points per game are seventh nationally. Senior guard Jazmine Davis is also a star, averaging nearly 16 points a game.
''Their backcourt is phenomenal. (Washington coach) Mike (Neighbors) does a great job in giving them space and room,'' Miami coach Katie Meier said.
MIAMI SHUFFLE: Miami is a No. 11 seed after going 8-8 in the ACC. But one of those wins came against Notre Dame, then No. 1 in the nation in RPI, and that's probably how the Hurricanes made the NCAA Tournament. Still, Miami has five losses in its last six games - although it has an addition to the roster of great guards meeting in Iowa City. Adrienne Motley is averaging 16.4 points per game, and her shooting percentage of 48.9 is 10th-best nationally among guards.
''They make shots. They create shots, and they do it at a really fast pace,'' Neighbors said. ''I accused our video girl of showing me the film and speeding it (up) because I thought that was not accurate. But that was real time.''
TIP-INS: Iowa is 11-6 against teams that reached the NCAA Tournament, including three wins over Nebraska ... Dumiak had 24 points and six assists in the Patriot-clinching win over Lehigh...Plum played for Meier on the U.S. team that won the FIBA U-19 World Championships in Lithuania in the summer of 2013 ... The Hurricanes are holding opponents to just 58.9 points per game.
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